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School Supervision

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School Supervision

Background and Context

School supervision in Trinidad and Tobago started in the 1850’s when a school inspection system was first established in the fledgling government-organised education system in the then British colonies.   The establishment of school inspection, even then, implied a degree of decentralization of decision-making and an attempt to maintain standards and accountability in the school system.

Essentially the mandate of the inspection system was to ensure policy implementation regarding effective instructional practice and wholesome learning environments. The inspectorate thus became a critical link between the central education authorities and the school system, continuing as such into this century virtually unchanged in its mandate, despite name changes and different administrative perspectives.  In the late 1950’s, for example, as the perspective changed from a more authoritarian one to a developmental one, the term ‘Inspector of Schools’ was replaced by ‘Education Officer’. Still later, towards the mid-1960’s, the name of the post again changed, this time being enshrined in the Education Act (1966) as ‘School Supervisor’. 

By the early 1970’s Government rapidly expanded the school system, particularly targeting the secondary sector in an attempt to guarantee free secondary education for all students. The Ministry of Education, responding to this challenge, developed an expanded model of education administration, running entire divisions for each of its key functions.  The Division of School Supervision thus formed now had the critical responsibility of ensuring the effectiveness of schools and pre-schools.

School supervision has thus played an essential role in the evolution of a decentralised system of education.  School Inspectors and later School Supervisors earned significant respect for their role in preserving school standards.  Since the 1970’s the Division has been headed by the Director of School Supervision who manages and co-ordinates a cadre of School Supervisors and support staff.   The Division itself which was always part of decentralisation efforts also became the first to successfully decentralize its activities in accordance with the recommendations of the ‘White Paper’- the seminal education policy statement of the decade of the 1990’s.

In that enhanced configuration, the Division not only ensured quality schools, but played an essential role in providing the Ministry’s central administration with sound information and advice on the running of the school system. This configuration, formally established in 1995, consisted of the Head Office of the Director and eight Educational District Offices, under the umbrella of the Chief Education Officer.

In the present reforms, the Division will undergo radical and far-reaching change. Though the ‘Head Office’ will still be a key player in ensuring high quality schooling, the activities of the Division will be mostly district-based.  The loss of the position of Director is likely to see the disappearance of a venerable division.

The Strategic Plan of 2002-2006 of the Ministry of Education takes into account the roles and functions of the Division of School Supervision in relation to the plans policies, objectives and implementation strategies of the Ministry to ensure the delivery of quality education at all levels of the education system.
The Strategic Plan also identifies the functional relationship between School Supervision and other Divisions to improve the quality of supervision of schools.

The Division remains committed to the current reform thrust, its goals and its values.

 Key Issues/Challenges
The Division works with certain constraints and challenges, some of which are listed below:

  1. insufficient manpower to train while supervising the implementation of revised curricula;
  2. overload of normal and peripheral duties;
  3. inadequate performance assessment system;
  4. insufficient manpower to supervise the Continuous Assessment Programme (CAP) in primary schools;
  5. lack of modern productivity training and professional equipment;
  6. poor recruitment regime;
  7. inadequate office and equipment resources and environments.

Achievements and Accomplishments
Notwithstanding the aforementioned issues, we highlight the following achievements:

  1. successful performance of core roles and functions in the face of obstacles and challenges;
  2. successful planning and coordinating of training programmes for supervisors, principals and teachers;
  3. successful planning, coordinating and implementing of co-curricular programmes with external agencies;
  4. representation of the Permanent Secretary at recruitment and promotion interviews, including those of the Teaching Service Commission;
  5. successful supervision of crisis situations in schools;
  6. partial success in the implementation of CAP in primary schools;
  7. liaising with internal and external agencies/units to promote health, safety and security in schools;
  8. successful planning of the conversion and de-shifting of junior secondary/ senior comprehensive schools;
  9. successful participation in a programme of disciplinary investigations and tribunals;
  10. Facilitation of the development, assessment, approval and supervision of School Improvement Plans (SIPs).

In pursuit of excellence and quality, the following recommendations are hereby suggested:

  1. revisit of the strategic plan for the Division of School Supervision;
  2. the formulation of an action plan;
  3. the development of a Procedure Manual for School Supervisors that outlines procedures for the key activities of school supervisors;
  4. continuous professional development for school supervisors;
  5. provision of resources (human, physical/facilities, financial) for optimal functioning of education districts;
  6. provision of technical training and equipment for school supervisors to do their job effectively;
  7. effective and meaningful recruitment procedures for the selection of new school supervisors;
  8. a mandatory long-term in-service training and certification plan for new school supervisors;

Day-to-Day Roles and Functions of School Supervision




  • Provides direction for the development of schools in keeping with the strategic plan of the Ministry of Education.
  • Ensures quality standards by supervising, inspecting and evaluating the operation of schools.
  • Leads in professional development for principals and teachers through programme proposals, training seminars and workshops.
  • Ensures the development of school-based management.
  • Provides a rich resource of exemplary coaching, training and apprenticeship for teachers and school administrators.

Administrative Management

  • Supervises the observance of the provisions of the Education Act and the Regulations pertaining to the conduct of schools.
  • Arranges for:
    • the approval of leave for teachers
    • the approval of school holidays that may be granted in accordance with the Regulations
    • the relocation and de-shifting of schools
    • the registration of private schools
    • placement of non-nationals in public schools
    • the considering and assessing of the confidential reports of teachers
    • the furnishing of such returns as may be prescribed or required at any time by the Minister.
  • Deals with all other matters of organisation, management and administration as may be referred to him by the Minister.
  • Approves the use of government schools and compounds for non-educational purposes.


  • Visits schools on a regular basis to monitor the implementation of the curriculum.
  • Organises team visits to schools to assess the delivery of the curriculum.
  • Examines the Principals’ records on clinical supervision and curricular checks.
  • Observes teachers’ classroom practices and provides feedback, when requested by principals.
  • Monitors the teaching/learning environment in schools.
  • Supervises school improvement programmes.
  • Shares/disseminates information with principals on current trends in teaching and learning.
  • Monitors the relevance of the curriculum with respect to the special needs and interests of students.

Internal/External Linkages

  • Represents the Minister as required.
  • Represents the Permanent Secretary at recruitment interviews including those of the Teaching Service Commission.
  • Establishes and maintains alliances with external agencies consistent with Ministry policies.
  • Approves projects and programmes initiated by external agencies.
  • Represents the Division, Ministry or senior ministry officials.
  • Liaises with internal/external agencies, departments and Ministries.
  • Coordinates various events/activities initiated by internal/external departments, agencies and ministries.
  • Interfaces with the general public and provides solutions to problems, issues and concerns, where necessary.
  • Prepares and/or delivers speeches.
  • Ensures parent participation in the running of schools.


  • Supervises the effective management and use of physical and financial resources in schools.
  • Monitors school security systems to ensure effectiveness.
  • Supervises effective health and safety standards in schools.
  • Corrects and reports on anomalies, irregularities or environmental threats to safety at schools.
  • Approves non-routine activities at schools, including field trips or school outings.
  • Requisitions, stores and distributes materials/consumables to support curriculum delivery and janitorial services in all primary schools.
  • Recommends and supervises repairs, renovations and refurbishments at schools.
  • Recommends/approves requisitions for furniture and equipment for schools.

Governance and Extra Curricular

  • Ensures the establishment and effective operation of student councils in all secondary schools.
  • Attends school functions and other special activities to supervise and support wholesome standards.
  • Coordinates district/nationwide competitions and other activities to support curricular/co-curricular programmes.
  • Organises a system of recognition and appreciation of good practice and long service of principals.

This article was researched and written by a select team of school supervisors in May 2005



Government of Trinidad and Tobago (November 1999). Secondary Education Modernization Programme. Implementation Manual (Inter-American Development Bank).

Government of Trinidad and Tobago. The Education Act 1966.

Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (November 2002). Strategic Plan 2002-2006.

Ministry of Education (January 2004). Restructuring and Decentralization of the Ministry of Education. The Way Forward. Restructuring and Decentralization Action Unit..

Ministry of Education (1993).  The Education Policy Paper 1993 – 2003. National Task Force on Education.

22 May 2006
Division of School Supervision


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